Contrary to expectations, life does not always give positive emotions — there are moments when it seems that everything around is destroyed, and nothing can be fixed. The streak of tragedies has a substantial impact on adults, but for children with a more developed fantasy and a naive view of the world, there is always a way to escape from grief. This description is characteristic of the short story “Flying Toward Morning” by Ciera Horton McElroy. According to the text, the unborn child of a woman dies, and the grief of loss destroys the mother of two girls. As a result of the emotional shock, she is under the highest stress, lying down at home, not leaving the room, and not eating. Her only support is her husband, who has taken time off to look after the family. The sad events do not touch the two girls, Tess and Anne, as they are distracted by a fictional story about the fairy and watching cartoons. This approach can hardly be called selfish: although the girls do not help their mother, they do not interfere, but try to relieve stress through fantasy. This essay aims at a literary analysis of the short story “Flying Toward Morning.”
The writer accurately and skillfully conveyed the feelings of hopelessness and despair experienced by different family members in this sad situation. Initially, it seems that McElroy focuses on a single storyline concerning two girls, but a careful reading makes it clear that there is a second, but the less visible line — the mother and her lost child. While in the central part of the text, the mother is an immovable body, before the loss of the child, she was alive. The writer explicitly describes that “When Mom went to the hospital, we assumed she’d gone into labor, and that our parents would come home with a swaddled brother or sister” (5). The woman was probably happy with her husband; in love, they conceived a third child, but the accident crippled her life. However, it is fair to say that the rest of the short story is about two girls fighting for a fictional world, and while one loses faith and hope, the other, Tess, seeks to help bring them back.
The title of the works usually contains all the deep meaning that the writer has put into the work. After a full reading, it becomes clear what McElroy wanted to convey, calling the story “Flying Toward Morning.” This phrase is both a metaphor and a literal expression of the feelings and thoughts that seem to have daughters. The author summarizes the entire text in the last paragraph when she writes about the rapidity of life and indifference to the loss of a child. From this point of view, the title justifies the hope that tomorrow, when the morning begins, the world will be a better place, and the sorrow of loss will gradually fade away. On the other hand, Tess and Anne’s last scene describes their play with fairies, when the girls spin around the room, representing the magical world. This is their “flying towards morning” — naive and playing girls do not want to take part in reality, but instead try to immerse themselves in a miniature world of fairies.
The problem of a short story is not so much a struggle between generations as a clash of ideologies. Girls may not understand their parents because of their young age (there were no direct references to the real age of Tess and Anne, but thanks to the description we can imagine that they are about ten years old), but the main factor of lack of any help is the worldview. While the father does everything possible to take care of the family and takes a vacation, daughters see the world differently, namely as a fabulous place where there are excuses for any losses. Tess states that “I feared she would sleep forever, that the hospital had put her under a sleeping curse” (3). This is that delicate perception of reality that is relevant to the girl. However, the ideological struggle is described not only for generations but also horizontally: over time, Anne loses faith in fairies, becoming an ordinary human devoid of imagination. Nevertheless, Tess does not let Anne change, she communicates with a creature using a laser pen and convinces her that giving up the fact of existence immediately kills fairies, and a jar with stationery sequins is magic dust. In the end, the girl managed to regain her faith for Ann, as the sentence “We danced and leapt, infusing ourselves with renewed belief” says (6). The author seeks to convince us that we must not lose hope and faith in moments of despair and how important emotional support is.
It is worth noting in addition that the short story is replete with small details that allow readers to believe this reality. Such plot elements, at first glance insignificant, play an essential role, as they allow to create a succinct artistic image and tell the reader more about the character or event than the most detailed description. If we turn to “Flying Toward Morning,” we can find at least three such details: the importance of a particular cartoon, the food prepared for girls, and a description of everyday life elements. The first sentence of the story begins with the girls watching on VHS about Peter Pan, a famous hero living in a fictional world, whose main friend is a fairy (1). It is no coincidence that McElroy chooses this cartoon, as it describes more fully what has influenced the girls’ creation of their fairy world. However, other films mentioned in the story, such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and The Black Cauldron, are also a visual representation of the fantasy world.
The other important detail that does not play a significant role in the story, but demonstrates the nature of the characters, is the food that the father and neighbor prepared for Tess and Anne. In particular, the exhausted man does not spend much time cooking dinner, therefore, the girls eat cereal and mac and cheese (3). At the same time, a neighbor who cares about girls in the absence of their parents is more loyal to their interests by giving them popcorn and krispie treats (5). Moreover, McElroy pays attention to household objects that convey the atmosphere of time: the girls watch cartoons on VHS, furniture bought at IKEA, the moon color of the walls instead of floral. Such elements allow us to dive deeper into the essence of the described events and become a full participant in the narrative.
In conclusion, “Flying Toward Morning” is a good demonstration of how the world is perceived differently by adults and children. In the composition plan, the story consists of one mainline and a background, designed to show the reader the characters. The primary literary technique used by McElroy is open conflict. Thus, the reader is always presented with an alternative: the worldview of parents against the views of children, the existence of fairies against their absence, the food of the father against the food of the neighbor, one color of the walls against another. There are many such examples, and each of them is introduced to give the reader a sense of the fullness of the world, its ambiguity, and duality.
Mcelroy, Ciera Horton. “Flying Toward Morning.” Burrow, 2018, Web.